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McFeely: Fargo School Board schedules special meeting to discuss Pledge of Allegiance

Move comes after Gov. Burgum says he'll push for law ensuring students, government bodies be given 'opportunity' to say pledge

Fargo School Board member Seth Holden, left, declines to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard at the Tuesday, April 12, 2022, meeting. The board will no longer recite the verse after it rescinded the motion on Tuesday, Aug. 9, voting in favor of removing it.Michael Vosburg/The Forum
Fargo School Board member Seth Holden, left, declines to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard at the Tuesday, April 12, 2022, meeting. The board will no longer recite the verse after it rescinded the motion on Tuesday, Aug. 9, voting in favor of removing it.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — The Fargo School Board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, Aug. 18, to discuss its decision to not say the Pledge of Allegiance prior to meetings.

The decision comes on the same day North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, issued a statement saying his administration will work with the Republican-dominated legislature to craft a law guaranteeing the opportunity exists for government officials and students to recite the pledge .

Burgum's move, while not explicitly stated as such, appears in response to the Fargo board's decision to rescind a motion that the Pledge of Allegiance be said before each meeting.

The Fargo board voted 7-2 last week to not say the pledge prior to meetings, setting off a firestorm of criticism in conservative media. The story went national, getting airtime on Fox News among other outlets.

A meeting labeled "special" was added Monday to the Board of Education meetings list on the school district's website. While there is no agenda attached, sources say the meeting will deal with the Pledge of Allegiance.

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It's clear the school board, with several new members elected in June, misjudged the reaction to rescinding the motion to say the pledge before meetings. Sources say Republican lawmakers were angered by the Fargo board's decision and talked of retaliation at the upcoming legislative session scheduled to begin in January 2023.

The special meeting, called by board president Tracie Newman, is likely an attempt to tamp down lawmaker vengeance, but it might be too little, too late.

Republican lawmakers like state Sen. Scott Meyer, Grand Forks, and state Reps. Pat Heinert, Bismarck, and Todd Porter, Mandan, have agreed to collaborate with Burgum's office to craft the legislation. Sources say Fargo area GOP legislators are angry with the Fargo board, too.

Slapping down a Fargo school board seen as progressive — "woke," in the lexicon of conservative media and politicians — is fresh meat for Republican politicians in a state as red as North Dakota. The board's decision, while innocuous in terms of impact on students, was tone-deaf.

It gave Republicans a chance to rally around the flag.

"As North Dakotans and Americans, we believe strongly in the value of this traditional and powerful affirmation that we are one nation, united under one flag, with liberty and justice for all, aspiring toward a more perfect union and acknowledging that such noble work never ends," Burgum said in announcing the planned legislation.

It's likely the Fargo board will get spanked during the upcoming session, taught a lesson by Republican legislators who are vindictive and mean-spirited. While the GOP likes to tout "local control" for school boards, the legislature could try to punish Fargo in areas like funding, curriculum, local control, etc.

Fargo educators will be playing damage control the entire session.

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Which, of course, is too bad because the ones most hurt will be students and teachers. But that won't stop Republican legislators and the governor from getting their revenge.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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